Commentary

Lawmakers To Facebook: Why Keep 'Likes,' Chats, Deleted Posts?

Austrian law student Max Schrems recently asked Facebook to turn over information it had on file about him. He received a 1,200-plus page report that included not only obvious material like friend lists and photos, but records of chats, “likes,” “pokes,” people he defriended, material he “deleted,” and event invitations -- whether he responded or it.

Schrems, who joined with some friends to launch Europe v. Facebook in August, says that he and his friends “just want to be able to use Facebook without having to worry about privacy.” He says in an FAQ about his site that his goals are “transparency” and “user control.”

“After studying the privacy policy of Facebook for months I can still not tell you what they do with my data,” he writes. “It is our data that we put on Facebook so we should have the right to do whatever we want with it.”

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Schrems was able to obtain Facebook's information about him because Europe's broad privacy laws give people the right to demand data about themselves that's held by companies.  Even in the U.S., however, his findings making waves. Most recently, four U.S. lawmakers wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to ask him to explain why the social networking service has such extensive dossiers about its users.

“We are concerned that although the user was under the impression that this information was deleted at the user's request, Facebook continued to retain the information,” wrote Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), all members of a bi-partisan privacy caucus.

“Under what circumstances do you retain data after users request its deletion?” they ask. “How might consumers benefit from such retention?”

The lawmakers also ask for answers to questions like how long Facebook stores data, whether it's encrypted and how the company disposes of it. 

A company spokesperson said in a statement that the company “care(s) deeply about respecting the expectations of the people who trust Facebook with their information.”

The lawmakers asked for a response from Facebook by Nov. 21.

2 comments about "Lawmakers To Facebook: Why Keep 'Likes,' Chats, Deleted Posts?".
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  1. Russell Cross from Prentke Romich, November 1, 2011 at 10:18 a.m.

    I am still having a hard time with people having a hard time with Facebook. Which part of "social network" is causing the problem in understanding? It is an open, public forum where people post whatever they want - yet still want privacy? And the most obvious thing is that it is NOT obligatory to sign up for, or use, Facebook. I think the whole "privacy" issue is bogus and a symptom of the inability of people to comprehend that there is no "privacy" on social networks. In fact, there should be LESS privacy to stop the abuse of the system by spammers, hackers, and plain ne'er-do-wells who think it's funny to sign up under aliases and abuse,harass, and annoy others. Hey, if you don't like something and want to disagree with someone, have the guts to say who you are and stop hiding behind anonymity - otherwise don't say it.

    By the way, my name is right at the top of this post and it's not an alias ;)

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 1, 2011 at 6:04 p.m.

    Then again, people have stopped thinking beyond about one. It's not just what the person puts on FB about oneself, but what others are posting about that person whether true or not, whether it is personal information or pictures with or without consent. It probably would be a better world without FB and facsimiles thereof. Good luck with that.

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